It's Gotta Be Done

How To Clean Your Air Fryer, Because The Ick Can Get Thick With This Workhorse

This kitchen staple requires routine de-gunking.

Originally Published: 
Unrecognizable man hand cooking skinless chicken breast with spices in an air fryer

Not since the invention of the microwave has cooking been easier than it is with an air fryer. With its rise in popularity and appearance in nearly every home kitchen, it's given back much-needed time to overworked and overwhelmed moms everywhere. We love our microwave, but it leaves things soggy at best — air fryers offer the quickness of a micro with the crunch of an oven or stovetop. In other words, they're amazing... but, be honest, when was the last time you cleaned yours? Do you even really know how to clean an air fryer? Spoiler alert: Just like a microwave or an oven, this kitchen appliance should be cleaned regularly (more often if you're not using liners).

It can feel overwhelming and complicated even to consider giving your air fryer a scrub, though. After all, that thing is electric! If you wash it, will you electrocute yourself the next time you plug it in? Or will you have to wait days until you're nearly positive it's all dried out? And what about if you use liners in your air fryer tray? Do you still need to clean it? One look at your microwave, where you heat food in dishes, should help you easily decide that the answer is a resounding, "Yes, duh!"

TikTok is, of course, full of "hacks" for cleaning your air fryer, but they aren't all necessarily foolproof or even safe. So, where do you go from here? Consider this your guide.

How often should you clean an air fryer?

Honestly, you should clean your air fryer after every use — especially if you don't use liners. Peek inside any air fryer brand's instruction manual, and they'll tell you to clean after each use. Not doing so can set you up for voided warranties and make you much more likely to experience a malfunction... or potentially a fire.

Moreover, your mama was right: It's easier to clean things right away. The longer you let it sit, the more those splatters and crumbs will harden up and stick to the insides of your air fryer. Do yourself a favor and clean it out immediately to avoid all sorts of messes and safety hazards.

How do you clean an air fryer basket/tray?

There are roughly a million methods for washing your air fryer, some less safe or less effective than others. The most important takeaway from all instructions, though: The main unit (with all the electrical/computer components) cannot be submerged in water. So, what's the best way to clean your air fryer after each use?

  1. After use, unplug your air fryer and allow it to cool.
  2. Remove the air fryer basket and submerge only the basket and pan in warm, sudsy water.
  3. Use a sponge or scrubber to loosen any baked-on gunk. (*Note: Some brands have made these parts dishwasher-safe, but always make sure to check.)
  4. Rinse the basket and pan.

How do you clean the bottom chamber?

That chamber that holds your air fryer basket and pan can get pretty gunky, just like the inside of your oven or microwave. Because it also houses the heating element, it's actually the most important part of the equipment to clean. Of course, it's also the most awkward to get to.

  1. After use, unplug your air fryer and allow to cool completely.
  2. Use a damp rag to wipe the chamber walls, paying close attention to the heating element.
  3. Wipe down and allow to air dry before reassembling your air fryer.

How do you clean the outside?

The outside of your air fryer can be cleaned just as you would the outside of any other small appliance. Once it's cool and unplugged, simply use a wipe or damp rag/sponge to wipe it down. Consider drying to avoid water marks.

Can I use soap on my air fryer?

Yes and no. It's completely fine to use soap to clean your basket and pan. It's less safe to use soap in the inner chamber. However, sometimes a warm, damp rag just won't cut it. First, try upping the temperature of the water used to dampen your rag. Next, if you feel you must use a cleaner, spray it onto your rag instead of directly onto the machine. Finally, wipe it down with a soap-free rag once you've cleaned it.

You should avoid using rough scrubbers or bristle brushes, as most air fryer cooking components are nonstick, and abrasive cleaning utensils could scratch that coating.

Can you put water/cleaning products in your basket and cook to clean it?

When air fryers first emerged as the trendy kitchen appliance, many people swore the best way to clean your air fryer was to put some water and Dawn in the basket, then "cook" on low to create a steam that would loosen any baked-on gunk. This sent massive red flags flying for some critical thinkers. Should you heat up or boil water in an obviously electric air fryer? Should Dawn even be heated? Many cleaning chemicals have a "flashpoint" or are considered flammable. Is Dawn?

First things first, Dawn does not recommend this.

"Contrary to popular belief, Dawn does not recommend 'steaming' your air fryer with Dawn dish soap and water," says Morgan Eberhard, a senior scientist for Cascade, a P&G Brand just like Dawn. "Most air fryers on the market are not equipped to hold more than a few tablespoons of water or other liquid, and it could end up damaging the internal components of the appliance or even cause a short circuit or overheating."

While some chemical-heavy cleaning products are flammable and even combustible, Dawn isn't. That's probably why many people feel safe with this method — Dawn has a "flashpoint" of 135 degrees in certain environments but is "aqueous," or more than 50% water, which means it won't combust. However, as Eberhard mentioned, "cooking" your Dawn and water mixture will still lead to moisture getting into the electronic components, making it dangerous for you and ruining your precious appliance.

For What It's Worth: Eberhard says using your Dawn Powerwash to coat with a light spray would be much safer and more effective.

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